South African conservationist, West Matheson was killed Thursday by two white lions he had raised from childhood.
West Mathewson, 69, was on a walk with the two 400-pound lionesses when one attacked him suddenly, the Guardian reported.
“He died while living his dream, being in nature and with his lions,” Marina Botha, the Mathewson family’s attorney, said in a statement to the Guardian. “The family is heartbroken by the loss of their husband, father and grandfather.”
While walking with lions is not an everyday activity for most people, Mathewson said in 2017 that he walked with them for three to four hours per day. He ran the popular Lion Tree Top Lodge.
Gill Mathewson, West’s wife, was following him and the lions in a car but could not distract the animals in time to save her husband, according to the BBC. His family said the lions appeared to be arguing and took the roughhousing too far.
Mathewson had rescued the lions from “canned hunting,” when animals are bred for hunting in an enclosed area, when they were just cubs and raised them, the BBC reported. The lions reportedly killed another man in 2017 and are expected to be released into the wild.
Mathewson is survived by his wife, four children and six grandchildren.